25 Facts About Microsoft You Never Knew

Microsoft is one of the most valuable companies today. It regularly switches places with Apple on the top spot and few times its worth crossed over $1 trillion. The company was founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen way back in 1975 and during more than 40 years of its existence, Microsoft released many successful products and become the ruling entity in the world of desktop operating systems.

Today, Microsoft holds a plethora of thriving products. Windows 10 is the most popular desktop operating system at the moment; the company’s Xbox division paves the way for the future of gaming; MS Office is still a go-to app suite for millions and Microsoft Surface line includes some of the best laptops in the world. Aside from a wide range of fruitful products Microsoft is known for its impact on the tech world and the plethora of interesting facts tied to the company. Here are 25 facts about Microsoft you never knew. Believe us, every single one is quite interesting.

1. How Microsoft Got Its Name

The company got its name by one of its founders. Bill Gates sent a letter to Paul Allen back in 1975, before they would found the company. The letter was the first time the word Microsoft was mentioned.

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Image Source Wikipedia

Gates wrote the name Micro-Soft because, in its original form, the word was a combination of two words – microcomputer and software. Microsoft would lose the hyphen in 1976 after the company was officially registered.

2. First OS Developed by the Company was Called XENIX

While many think that Microsoft started its journey with its MS-DOS operating system, the truth is that there was another OS developed by the company that saw the light of day before MS-DOS.

Image Source Wikipedia

The name of that OS was XENIX. The OS was, in fact, a modified version of the UNIX operating system, developed by Bell Labs for AT&T in the early 1970s. Microsoft licensed UNIX from AT&T, created XENIX, and then licensed the OS to hardware vendors such as Intel and SCO.

3. MS Office First Debuted on Macintosh, Not Windows

MS Office is one of the most popular Microsoft products of all time, in line with Windows. And the app suite is synonymous with the Windows operating system. But in truth, the Office suite first found its way on the Macintosh.

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Image Source channel9.com

The reason was simple. Back in 1989, when MS Office first launched, Macintosh computers were more popular than Windows PCs and it was financially sound to launch the suite first for Macintosh. A year later MS Office found its way to Windows OS. 

4. Try Creating a Folder Named CON in Windows – You Can’t

Image Source YouTube

Windows operating systems are filled with quirks and Easter eggs. One of the strange quirks found in Windows is the fact that you simply can’t create a folder named CON. Try it and you’ll see it’s impossible.

5. Bill Gates Earned his First Billion When He Was 31

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Image Source CNBC

Microsoft proved to be lucrative for its founders. Bill Gates earned his first $1 billion in 1987, before his 32nd birthday. That made him the youngest billionaire at the time.

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6. Microsoft Invented Tablet Computer, not Apple

While Apple popularized tablet computers with the iPad, which debuted in 2010, the company didn’t invent the form factor. In fact, the tablet computer was invented by Microsoft. Bill Gates revealed a Windows XP-powered tablet PC prototype back in 2001 but the market wasn’t ready for it.

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Image source Technovortex

The thing was thick, heavy, and too bulky to be considered an ultra-portable device. Even though many manufacturers released their tablet PCs the product flopped massively. It wasn’t until 2010 that tablets noticeably impacted the tech market.

7. The First Smartwatch Was Also Made by Microsoft

Microsoft was a pioneering company in many fields but many of its ground-breaking products simply debuted too early. In other words, the company was ahead of times and the market usually just wasn’t ready for those products.

Image Source Wikipedia

Aside from the tablet PC, Microsoft also created the first smartwatch, way back in 1994. The watch was coproduced with Timex and was called Timex DataLink 150.

It featured a tiny LCD and was able to connect with Windows PCs to download various data, such as appointments. The watch was also water-resistant up to 100 meters. But, as the tablet PC, smartwatch from Microsoft didn’t sell in large numbers.

8. The Company was founded in New Mexico, not Washington

Image source portlandloo

While Microsoft is synonymous with Redmond, Washington, the company didn’t start there. Microsoft was officially founded in Albuquerque, New Mexico on April 4, 1975. Redmond became Microsoft HQ in 1985.

9. The Original Xbox Design was Exercise in Exorbitance

The original Xbox video games console was a massive success for Microsoft. The console successfully competed with Sony PlayStation 2 and literally took SEGA out of the gaming console business.

Image source Polygon

Its design was monolithic and powerful but the original prototype was ludicrous. It was a massive, X-shaped metallic slab that looked absurd. Luckily, Microsoft decided to change the design before the Xbox console debuted.

10. Microsoft Saved Apple in 1997

Apple was struggling back in the final years of the 20th century. The company fired Jobs and started releasing a bunch of products without a clear strategy. That headless period cost them lots of money and in 1997 Apple was near bankruptcy.

Image source business insider

Then entered Microsoft, or better to say, Bill Gates. He made a deal with Steve Jobs, who returned to Apple a year prior. Microsoft invested $150 million in Apple and Apple pulled lawsuits it had filed against Microsoft. But the real reason behind the investment was for Microsoft to create real competition.

The company was in legal trouble with the US government during the 90s because of its monopolistic presence in multiple markets and reviving one of its main rivals meant creating a worthy competitor capable of taking a piece of the market cake. This ultimately saved Microsoft from being broken into multiple independent entities.

11. Gates and Allen Already Co-Founded a Business Before They Founded Microsoft

Image source Wikipedia

Micro-Soft wasn’t the first company founded by Allen and Gates. Before creating the world’s biggest tech company, the two founded Traf-O-Data. Traf-O-Data was created back when the two were still in high school and the company was responsible for creating a simple computer used for counting and processing traffic data.

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12. The Company Owns an Enormous Amount of Patents

image source Neowin

Microsoft has bought almost 200 companies during its lifetime and at the moment it owns tens of thousands of various patents. Most of its acquisitions were in order to get access to new patents.

13. Microsoft Didn’t Have Its Website Until 1993

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Image source Gizmodo

This seems weird since the Internet Explorer was synonymous with internet browser during the 90s but Microsoft didn’t have the official website until 1993.

14. Windows Got Its First Virus in 1992

Image source fossbytes

Windows was virus-free for almost a decade until someone decided to create the first virus for Windows. It was called WinVer 1.4. For more facts about computer viruses see this article.

15. Microsoft doesn’t sell software, it sells software licenses

When you buy a disk with Windows 10, you don’t actually own the software on the disk. Instead, you own the license to use it and Microsoft can withdraw the license at any time.

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Image source ZdNet

Microsoft doesn’t sell software at all and never sold it. Throughout the years it only sold software licenses. In other words, you can buy an indefinite license to use Windows or MS Word but you never own the software.

16. Want to Learn all About MS Word? Type “=rand(200,99)” Into a Word Document and Hit Enter

Image Source Lifewire

A nice Easter egg inside Microsoft Word gives you access to an extensive description of Word features. Just type the combination of symbols shown above (without quotation marks) and hit enter and you’ll receive the document.

17. The First Hardware Produced by Microsoft Was a Mouse Back in 1983

Today, Microsoft is known for its quality hardware. The Surface line is the best option for those who want to own the best portable Windows machines and the Xbox One X console is the best choice for gamers who want lots of power and 4K gaming but don’t have the money for a state-of-the-art gaming PC.

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Image source Wikipedia

But Microsoft wasn’t hardware first company until they came out with the original Xbox. In fact, before their entered video game consoles business, they made only mice and keyboards. The first hardware ever produced by Microsoft was, in fact, a mouse simply called Microsoft Mouse. It was bundled with early versions of MS Word and Notepad and was used during the times when PCs ran text-based operating systems that didn’t require a mouse to be controlled.

18. MS Excel Was the First Hugely Popular App Made by the Company

Microsoft did found lots of success in the operating system market but the company didn’t produce a killer app until 1985. That year the company introduced MS Excel for the Macintosh and the app was super successful.

Image source PCWorld

It outsold Lotus 1-2-3 and Apple VisiCalc, the two go-to apps for spreadsheet-related work, by the early 90s and the success of Excel firmly set Microsoft as one of the premier software developers. The release of the first MS Office suite in 1989 only solidified Microsoft’s place on the throne of computer software.

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19. Xbox stands for “DirectX Box”

Not many fans know that the Xbox is an abbreviation for DirectX Box. DirectX is a Microsoft-made API used for programs that use 3D rendering. In other words, video games. And every Xbox uses a modified DirectX to run video games.

Image Source Microsoft

And with the unveiling of the next-gen Xbox Series X console, that name holds true like never before. The console is based on PC x86 architecture, it runs modified Windows 10 OS, and it looks like a small factor gaming PC.

20. Windows 1.0, the First Version of Windows, Debuted in 1985

Windows 1.0, the first GUI (graphic user interface) operating system made by Microsoft, debuted in 1985. The OS received poor reviews mostly because of its high hardware requirements.

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Image Source Wikipedia

But, interestingly, many reviewers bashed it because it demanded a mouse to be used. Back then most OSs were text-based and a GUI operating system was viewed as a brief fad, which was also said about another GUI-based OS, the Macintosh. Oh, how they were wrong.

21. Bill Gates Had a Boring Name for Windows

While Bill Gates is a genius when it comes to software development his marketing skills aren’t on par with his coding prowess. Back when the first version of Windows was in works one of the founders of Microsoft had an idea regarding the mane of the upcoming operating system.

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Image Source Microsoft

Bill Gates wanted to call the OS “Interface Manager” and for a while that was the official name for the operating system. But then people from the marketing department heard about it and strongly suggested to Gates that Windows sounds much better. And he agreed.

22. Windows XP is installed on More than 40 percent of Desktop PCs in Armenia as of August 2019

Windows XP is by far the most successful version of Windows (but Windows 10 is getting closer by the day) of all time and thus the most successful product Microsoft ever created. It was the go-to operating system for more than a decade until Windows 7 came out.

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Image Source statcounter

And even today, a few percent of all PC users have the OS installed on their computers, at least in most countries around the world. But in Armenia, almost 42 percent of PC desktop users have Windows XP installed on their computers.

23. PC-DOS was Microsoft’s First Big Product

Image Source Wikipedia

While the company had made products before 1980, the first major deal for Microsoft was with IBM back in 1980. Back then IBM was a massive name in the hardware space and the company contracted Microsoft to develop an operating system for IBM’s home computers.

The OS was called PC DOS and it was a simple, text-based operating system that was relatively successful. The value of the deal was $50,000, which is around $165,000 in today’s money.

24. A $1,000 Investment in MS Shares Back in 1986 Would Be Worth More Than $1.6 Million Today

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Image Source TheMotleyFool

If someone invested $1,000 in Microsoft shares during Microsoft’s IPO (initial public offering) that person would be able to sell their shares for more than $1.6 million today. This shows just how much the company gained in value over the course of more than 30 years.

25. Windows 10 is Probably the Last Version of Windows

With Windows 10 Microsoft began a new era for the company. This era follows the latest SAAS (software as a service) trend that is dominant across the world. Because of that Windows 10 is probably the last version of Windows we will ever see.

Image Source TechHive

It’s because Windows is seen as a live service that is constantly changed and upgraded, not as a product that will be replaced with another product (another operating system). Over time, it is expected for Microsoft to simply remove the 10 from the name, creating just Windows OS. The OS will receive regular updates and will be Microsoft’s platform hosting other, more profitable products such as MS Office, Xbox Game Pass and Microsoft Store, and its Surface line of tablets and laptops.

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About the Author: Gordon Stillwater